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ROBIN & BINA WILLIAMSON, The Tron, Glasgow

The story goes that Incredible String Band co-founder Robin Williamson refused to participate in the band's 2009 retrospective at London's Barbican because he doesn't like looking back.

Which is ironic, because this exotic folk performance from Williamson and his wife (and long-term collaborator) Bina looked into the past, and then some, to Williamson's God-fearing Irish ancestors, bluesy 1920s jaunts (Cocaine Killed My Honey Dead) and 1940s Hindi film songs, Paraguayan train songs and Punjabi wedding songs, all keenly sung by Bina.

Fusing storytelling, original works, traditional folk psalms and ambient curveballs (one of Erik Satie's Gnossiennes), Williamson exuded fireside camaraderie as he regaled us with meandering tales of tai chi, mermaids, Chinese archaeology, the mountains of Wales and a nude man in a refrigerator.

But the highlights came when the one-time ISB vocal acrobat sat back from his harp and sang, notably on English folk ballad George Collins, and the evening's highlight, Ivy, Sing, Ivy, his glorious, bucolic "song about nothing", backed by tambourines and slide guitars.

It also sounded most like the Incredible String Band. Williamson's swooping vocals, especially the fathomless low notes, remain almost unmatched and highly influential. They call to mind contemporary artists like Wounded Knee and Trembling Bells' Alex Neilson, who recently teamed up with Williamson's former bandmate, Mike Heron.

Bina's enthralling instrumentalism, meanwhile, embraced harmonium, zither, strumstick and something called a chipli. "It's made of sandalwood," advised her husband. "And no, you can't smell it."

Congenial, low-key and entertaining, an evening geared toward communal experience as much as the music. As Williamson put it: "What we're trying to celebrate is the fact we're here."

HHH

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